Phil Shaw of South Lismore relaxes with his crossword.
Phil Shaw of South Lismore relaxes with his crossword. Jacklyn Wagner

Following law of heart

GOING from selling fruit and vegies on Nimbin's main street to teaching legal studies to senior students at the village's Central School may seem like a giant leap, but to Phil Shaw of South Lismore, it was a logical progression.

Mr Shaw had owned greengrocery businesses in Tasmania before he opened the Fun Fruits shop at Nimbin.

But in the years before he bought the shop, he had been studying for a science and law degree at Southern Cross University, earning a grade average of Distinction across all his courses.

He topped his year and won a prize for his studies in criminal law - but instead of joining a law firm after graduating from university, he opened the Nimbin greengrocers.

Twice a week, every week for the following three years, Mr Shaw would get up at 1.30am to drive to the Brisbane markets for his stock.

Now he gets up at 5.30am every school day, nips down the street to the newsagents, buys the paper and completes the crossword before heading off to work.

"When I sold the shop, I studied for a Dip Ed (diploma in education) and got a job teaching at Broken Hill," Mr Shaw said.

"I used to dream of landing a job teaching at Nimbin, because of my love for the place and its people.

"Of all the schools on the Northern Rivers, it's where I most wanted to be."

As well as teaching legal studies to years 11 and 12, Mr Shaw teaches science and geography to years 7 to 10."Teaching legal studies to senior students is something for which I have an extreme passion," he said.

"I believe all young Australians should be exposed to this course.

"It awakens them to injustices in their society, and shows them how to explore legal ways of effecting social change.

"The structure of the course allows students the opportunity to choose an issue for a major research project - and interestingly, for Nimbin, not one student chose drug law reform.

"They're doing topics like terrorism, same-sex marriage, the plan to outlaw motorcycle gangs, bail and sentencing law, and human trafficking."

At 58, Mr Shaw, a father of four, chose to teach rather than practise law because: "I love kids, and I saw my time best spent, for the rest of my working life, helping them to do well."



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